Facing Powerlessness

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About Steve Milan

Steve Milan, LCSW is a therapist in Austin, TX who works primarily with men and couples. He is also a father, a son, an ex-husband, an ex-CPA, a partner to his sweetie, and an Ultimate Frisbee player. Steve has been writing for his own sake off and on over the years.


  1. Wow – great meditation on powerlessness. Envisioning a physical chair where I can sit and free myself (and the world) from my need to control outcomes is a very helpful exercise. I need to be reminded daily that I am not responsible for all the crap I think I am (or want to be.) Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Wendy Gonzalez says:

    Steve, I would venture to say that your vulnerability and “powerlessness” are some of your greatest traits.

    • Steve Milan says:

      Thanks, Wendy. I’d suggest that this is true for all of us. One thing that I’ve found to be true in therapy is that – no matter the specifics, the gender, whatever – when a person truly opens themselves to be seen, they are at their most beautiful. I can’t help but be drawn to them.

  3. There has been quite a few great posts lately on GMP, and this is certainly one of them.

    I think, that what keeps us emotionally stiffled is our inability or unwillingness to accept our unwanted and uncontrollable emotions or experiences. Only by letting go of trying to control, we can become more free. We can start to become human beings instead of human doings….

    My personal experience is, that mindfulness meditation and practicing acceptance helps a lot, but that there will always be a struggle.

    Again, great post!

    • Steve Milan says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Lars. I agree with you completely. Control is completely overrated, and acceptance is the enlivening path. But it’s kind of like freefalling – terrifying and exhilarating.

      My therapy practice is based in Hakomi, a body centered, mindfulness based practice of assisted self study – and I don’t know how I would have gotten through these years of parenting without meditation.

  4. Tom Brechlin says:

    My helplessness came when my daughter got married. Walking her down the aisle, lifting her veil, kissing her and giving her hand to her soon to be husband was really really hard. It was a day I dreaded from the moment she was born but it was inevitable that it would happen … and it did.

    My son, who just graduated from college (went to school locally) is my buddy. I still feel a helplessness in that as a dad, I still want to protect him, shield him from different negative aspects in life but I can’t. Then I think of my own dad and how I wish he was still around for me. He passed away when I was 20. Good gosh we’d be close. So that’s when I start to see me from my sons perspective ….. I am to my son what my dad would have been to me.

    When I broke down at my daughters wedding during the father daughter dance, the photographer got up close. After the dance, he said what he saw and photographed was true love between a dad and his daughter. When your son leaves, if you feel like breaking down, DO IT!. When our hearts break, even when it appears that they shouldn’t because the event is “good” … a broken heart is still broken and that when we give into our feelings, we are in fact letting go of the helplessness and taking control of our feelings and accepting them as being part of us. Does that make any sense? It does to me…

    • Steve Milan says:

      Yes, Tom. Accepting feelings makes all kinds of sense to me. I am glad that you and your daughter have that beautiful picture of true love in its human form, and that you feel the legacy of your father with your son. I’m so glad to still have my father, and we continue to grow up together.

      I started to realize early on in parenting that raising kids was a long series of breakthroughs and heartbreaks. When I took my son on a 2,000-mile college tour last summer, I started preparing for this big letting go. Through this year, I have forgotten about it on a conscious level many times, but when I return to my heart I feel the constant impact of this ending/beginning. Now I am counting the days until we launch our next long drive – 854 miles with him and 854 miles without him. I expect to feel a lot, and to release a lot (I think of my tears and rants as releasing rather than breaking down) and we’ll talk about it some. But I’ll make sure I do the deepest expression outside of earshot of his new peers. While a dad who feels may be a good model for a kid, a dad who breaks down in front of your new college roommates may be less appreciated. :-)

      All in all, I think he has some pretty great internal and external resources to help him deal with whatever comes next. And from many miles away, I will continue to “want for” him unconditionally.

  5. Beverly Alexander says:

    Wow, Steve, you have captured this so well, so beautifully, and with such acceptance. I see the reaction to powerlessness so much in my own life and in those that sit across from me. I will certainly share this, and appreciate the grace with which you write.

  6. John Smith says:

    Exceptionally well written, Steve. Thank you for sharing.

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